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(en) ILS* Bulletin #1 (February 2004) - THE ONTARIO COALITION AGAINST POVERTY

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Mon, 22 Mar 2004 11:34:07 +0100 (CET)

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The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) is direct action anti-poverty
organization which has been fighting bosses of various stripes since 1989.
From the beginning OCAP has been dedicated to militant direct action rather
than consultation and compromise. Our actions are determined by the real
needs of our members and we take a course of action in which we do whatever
it takes to meet those needs. Our members are the people in our
neighbourhoods, the working class in all its diversity: young, old,
students, First Nations, disabled, unemployed, psychiatric survivors,
immigrants, refugees, low wage workers, rank-and-file unionists,
artists and playwrights, sex workers and homeless people.


OCAP is a "do-it-ourself" organization and so we don't rely on
representatives, vanguards or experts to do things for us. Our
collective power of disruption is applied both to defend individuals
and families and to challenge broader political practices. This
allows us to win real victories in the here and now while also
building the struggles necessary to bring the system down. Right
now, direct action at the point of oppression is the most effective
means we have to oppose hostile conditions and make gains on
our own terms.

As a tactic of self-defence OCAP has developed "direct action
casework." This involves bringing large numbers of members and
allies directly to an offending agency, landlord or workplace and
staying until we get what we came for. If people are facing an
eviction we go directly to their home to make the eviction
impossible for the landlord and sheriff. If someone is being denied
back pay we take a picket right to the boss and disrupt business
until the money is forthcoming. If an acceptable settlement is not
forthcoming we raise the costs of offending agencies to the point
where it is no longer worthwhile for them to act in an oppressive

Often this means directly targeting businesses. When a Hollywood
movie production drove sex workers from a downtown street
without compensation (which had been given to small businesses
for lost earnings during the shoot) we disrupted filming with a
contingent of people. The next day an envelope full of bills arrived
at our office for the workers. When a restaurant owner
successfully lobbied to close a downtown shelter we ran an
ongoing picket at his business until he asked the City to allow the
shelter to be reopened.

For people who are excluded from channels of power and don't
want to deal with such rotten channels anyway, direct action,
taking responsibility for the decisions that affect our lives and
acting on our own needs and interests, is the most effective means
of building collective power.

These methods of collective direct action are also applied to
broader struggles. In 2001, OCAP organized in cities, workplaces,
towns and reserves throughout Ontario working towards a series
of acts of political and economic disruption throughout Ontario
and beyond. The Ontario Common Front tried to build a network
among allied organizations (unions, First Nations, other
OCAP-style direct action groups) which would target significant
corporate backers of the Tories, especially the major banks and
real estate developers, in different parts of Ontario.

As an internationalist organization having only contempt for the
borders that divide working class and poor people and shelter
capital, defence of immigrants and refugees is an important aspect
of our work. Along with our allies in the Canadian Union of Public
Employees Local 3903 flying squad, we have gone directly to
Pearson International Airport to stop deportations. We've handed
out leaflets to passengers alerting them to the situation and gone
directly to the Immigration Canada deportation office in the
basement of Terminal One. During one airport visit we
successfully stopped three deportations, a testament to the powers
of direct action, especially when backed by labour.

We have also fought against borders by building active alliances
with anti-poverty and workers' organizations in other countries.
During the World Summit on Sustainable Development in
Johannesburg, OCAP responded to a call by our allies in the West
Cape Tenants' Group by taking a picket to the offices of the South
African Trade Consulate. A couple weeks later, at the request of
the Equality Trade Union of South Korea, OCAP held a picket
against Korean Air in solidarity with migrant workers in Korea
who were being attacked by the South Korean government. In this
case we targeted the capitalists who support, direct and benefit
from government policies rather than the government itself.

At the same time we recognize that one of the areas where we've
needed to do more work is in building dual power institutions that
can meet our needs in the here-and-now without having to rely on
claims against the state. These dual power institutions would offer
real alternatives and a self-determined base for developing our
strength. At one time in the history of the labour movement,
unions offered the basis for such dual power, providing medical
clinics, elderly care, hostels, underground railroads and schools for
workers. Today unions neglect this work, leaving the state to
provide these things for workers. This has done a great deal to
undermine working class autonomy.

Our recent squatting efforts are part of a turn towards building
more permanent dual power institutions where we provide for our
necessities, in this case shelter, whether the state acts or not.
When we took over the abandoned building that became known as
the Pope Squat during the Pope's visit to Toronto in the summer
of 2002, our intention was not to turn the squat over to any level of
government to manage but rather to self-manage the space as
social housing and a community resource centre.

The Pope Squat signaled a partial shift in strategy towards a focus
on constructing alternatives, on do-it-ourself institution building,
rather than protest-style demands made upon government
institutions. In this regard the squat was an aspect of constituting
dual power structures in which participants build the capacity to
meet their own needs. The Pope Squat was an integral part of
preparing the facilities to house a self-managed social housing and
community centre.

This emergent squatting movement is partly the result of
widespread frustrations among anti-capitalist activists, whether
focused on fighting global capitalist institutions or on local
manifestations, with the reactive or oppositional character of most
recent actions. Squats represent positive and constructive acts of
building community-based alternatives to capital in the here and
now of everyday life. Making a real contribution to meeting
peoples? human needs rather than condemning capital for failing
to meet those needs offers a glimpse into how things might be
done differently while materially beginning the process of
providing real social change (as opposed to social critique).

Recognizing that we have no interests or values in common with
the economic and political bosses, we don't try to "reach them" on
any level. Instead we attack them directly where it hurts: in their
bank accounts. Part of that strategy means acting in ways that
raise their costs of doing business. It also means refusing to accept
any right they might claim to make the decisions that
fundamentally affect us. We neither recognize nor respect
government or corporate authority and see it plainly for what it is:
an impediment to our self-determination and an attempt to
monopolize social power in their own hands. We do whatever we
can to make it impossible for the exploiters to implement and
carry out their agenda.

by Jeff Shantz, North-Eastern Federation of
Anarcho-Communists (NEFAC) - USA & Canada

Copied from ILS-SIL http://www.ils-sil.org - International
Libertarian Solidarity - Anarchist federation

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